Archive Collective: The true spirit of the Air Force 1


Written by: Boitumelo Molamu, Photography: Aart Verrips (Sourced from

In a marketing meeting, if we got a dollar every time someone said “synergy” or “community reach”, we would be a little richer than most. While most brands find it close to impossible to articulate those words through campaigns, in November 2022, Nike and sneaker retailer Archive, in collaboration with design agency Futura Joburg, knocked it out of the park with the Archive Collective campaign for the 40th anniversary of the Air Force 1.

The campaign, which featured five of the most prominent creatives of our time, was centred around the idea of using creativity and community to drive culture forward – the same ideology that is integrated into the soul of the Air Force 1.

As part of the campaign, Archive would host a two-day event, titled Join Forces, held at the new Archive flagship store on Bree Street, Cape Town, and produced by MAMAKASHAKA. The two days of Join Forces were defined as creator sessions, where the Archive Collective shared their creative process, skills and understanding of the creative field.

In 2014, I released a book with the same name and launched it in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Since then, I have been involved in a myriad of projects; from artwork commissions for interior spaces and live events to public speaking, running workshops and writing articles for overseas publications. I love being a trusted and reliable source for promoting local graffiti art and photography.


Before it was considered the perfect white shoe, the Air Force 1 was just a basketball shoe introduced in 1982. At the time, it was a revolutionary design, as it was the first basketball sneaker to use the air cushioning technology that is still a huge part of Nike. Designed by Nike designer Bruce Kilgore, the Air Force 1 (high top), took a lot of its inspiration from hiking boots, which made it more relatable to the Timberland-loving East Coast consumer. As Jadakiss rapped, “I’m white Air Force 1s and I’m construction Timbs,” on ‘Jadakiss Interlude’ from DJ Khaled’s 2022 album God Did.

In its over 40 years on the shelf, the Air Force 1 has undergone several PR image changes; just like the Air Jordan 1 – the sneakers both went from being court shoes to fashion and lifestyle staples. Now, when you think Air Force 1, you think community; you think daring; “cut from a different cloth” – which were all portrayed perfectly in the Archive Collective campaign.

The creatives around whom the campaign is centred – from Lwazi Madonsela to Shala The Unicorn, Sonia Tona, Mamthug and Yolophonik – have come to represent something bigger than themselves. They embody the ideology of community, bridging worlds and leaving clues for the next generations. Lwazi’s podcast Cnr Juta & De Beer is a geocache for knowledge, with both clear and hidden lessons that serve the greater community in the interviews.

Shala’s work is daring – from music covers to editorials and videos, her work has moments of feeling surreal. She has an ability to make the visually unattainable appear within reach. Sonia Tona is one force that bridges the gap between fashion, sustainability and community. She is cut from a different cloth; her work is not the quick, generic design of fast fashion or the clean, far-fetched idea of luxury, it’s something on its own, and she’s able to bring people on the journey of her creation.

Throughout the years, producer and DJ Yolophonik has found his people and continues to serve them. While others find ways to become mainstream, Yolophonik doubles down on his audience. He has produced for artists such as A-Reece, Roho and Blxckie. Mamthug, on the other hand, is without a doubt the true definition of a community builder. The event BeatsbyHer, a musical experience curated by her, has been responsible for events that bring together music and food lovers. In all honesty, this is the spirit of the AF1. 


Photographed by Aart Verrips and styled by Wanda Lephoto, the Archive Collective campaign is a marketing masterpiece. The campaign was introduced weeks after Archive opened the doors of their latest Cape Town concept store, which is also called Archive Collective – the same store where the Join Forces event was hosted. Besides me professing my love for this campaign, based on the execution and how everyone just aligns with everything.

I romanticise the idea of a collective, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. A lot of the great cultural moments and creatives in South Africa are from collectives – from BoyzNBucks (Riky Rick, OkMalumKoolKat, Stilo Magolide, Scoop Makhathini and Usanele, to name a few) to ISeeADifferentYou, which gave us Fhatuwani and Justice, and lastly, The Sartits, which gave us Wanda Lephoto. Collectives have been such an integral part of South African culture, and the Archive Collective just served that nostalgia.

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